A genuine connection

In an ongoing effort to reach multicultural audiences, some companies are looking to cause-related initiatives.

In an ongoing effort to reach multicultural audiences, some companies are looking to cause-related initiatives.

A few years ago, after a more than 20-year relationship with the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), a US-based Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization, Allstate saw the opportunity to take that partnership and its work in the Hispanic community in a different direction.

After decades of primarily targeting older segments of the Hispanic population, the insurance provider wanted to shift some of that focus to the younger end of the spectrum. That move resulted in a cause-related program called the Lideres de Hoy (Leaders of Today) national essay contest.

"It was an offshoot of where we saw the next phase of the partnership going," says Michelle Bollinger, senior communications consultant at Allstate. "We have always had a commitment to economic empowerment and to empowering the Hispanic community overall."

She adds that whether it's financial empowerment or leadership development, Allstate, one of the leading insurers of Hispanics in the US, has been steeped in cause-related initiatives for quite some time. With Lideres de Hoy, it's focusing on youth leadership and civic engagement.

Bollinger says it was NCLR's mission to "increase the number, capacity, and influence of young Hispanic leaders" that piqued Allstate's interest in the segment. Axis, the company's lead Hispanic agency on this particular program, created and launched the contest for Allstate and NCLR in 2005.

For corporations targeting multicultural consumers, cause-related initiatives are becoming the focal points of their marketing efforts. Multicultural marketing experts push for these initiatives because  they allow companies to highlight their commitment to a community while differentiating themselves from competitors.

The bottom line can't be the main concern, however. Axis president Armando Azarloza says programs like Lideres de Hoy are becoming more essential for companies trying to establish a relationship with multicultural communities.

"What it does for Allstate is reinforce its leadership position," he says. "[It] shines a light on the fact that it's a good corporate citizen and is looking at issues of concern in the communities it serves."

Those participating in the contest were asked to talk about their involvement in their community and write an essay explaining what being a leader means to them. In 2005, ten $5,000 scholarships were awarded to high school students for education expenses.

Roughly 200 students participated. A year later, the contest was opened to college students and 12 scholarships were awarded - two $10,000 scholarships to the high school and college winners and ten $5,000 scholarships to the other finalists. The applicant total rose to 325.

The details of this year's contest, scheduled to launch this July at NCLR's annual conference in Miami, are still being ironed out.

And while high school and college students may not be the typical targets for an insurance company, Bollinger says developing a relationship with young Hispanic consumers is imperative.

"Today's Hispanic youth are going to be majority leaders of our country going forward," she notes. "We feel financial literacy and empowerment, whether through insurance or savings products, are going to be a big part of their future success. If we can help them along the way, we're going to be a part of their life moving forward. That allows us to tap into the next generation of consumers."

Media taking notice

Stephen Chavez, VP, director of PR at La Agencia de Orci, says cause-marketing campaigns are often an easier pitch to the media covering these communities.

"I find that when we include a community component, we have much greater success in terms of media relations and attendance," he says. "Spanish-language media see themselves as not just covering the community, but as advocates for the community. When they see programs that benefit, they're more willing to cover the story."

La Agencia de Orci recently worked with Verizon on a program at the Billboard Latin Music Conference & Awards where the telecommunications provider donated $5,000 and three guitars signed by Latino celebrities to the VH1 Save The Music Foundation.

Verizon set up a booth at the awards where celebrities and performers could have their pictures taken while signing the guitars. The guitars will be auctioned on VH1auctions.com this month.

Jeff McFarland, director of multicultural marketing at Verizon, says entertainment is the perfect hook for the company because of its influence in the African-American and Hispanic communities.

"Music is a form of communication and a part of our culture for years, so when I look at these opportunities at what makes a difference in our community, entertainment is a big part of that," he says. "We're looking for [avenues] where we can bridge entertainment and education in the African-American and Hispanic segments because it develops a lot of opportunities. It becomes an outlet where we can entertain and highlight how Verizon products and services can help in the areas of entertainment and education."

McFarland adds that cause-related initiatives must go beyond  logos and event banners, otherwise the brand will miss out on an opportunity and, more importantly, may insult the community.

"It's got to be something that benefits that segment," he stresses,  "and not just [be] self-serving."

Causes that matter
Five issues that resonate with different groups of multicultural consumers:

African American 
 
1. Education
2. Health issues such as HIV/AIDS, hypertension, diabetes, heart disease
3. Employment
4. Diversity in terms of recruitment and retention
5. Eco. development (home ownership, financial literacy)

"These causes directly resonate with African-American consumers because they impact who we are and what we want to do to effect change," says Kim Hunter, president and CEO of Lagrant Communications

Asian

1. Green and sustainability
2. Inclusion and diversity
3. Quality of life
4. Affinity
5. Leadership

"Consumers are placing greater demands on companies to do more for the environment and are now more concerned about the planet we inhabit, " notes Bill Imada, chairman of IW Group

Hispanic

1. Education
2. Healthcare
3. Financial literacy
4. Economics
5. Political empowerment

"Record number of Hispanics are unbanked and unfamiliar with the array of financial services available to them, " notes Armando Azarloza, president of Axis, on financial literacy

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